Farmers had to pay a good wage to ensure somebody would work for
them. The industrialisation of the north created a market for
The key date in the calendar for when
fairs were held was Martinmas, St Martin’s Day, on 11 November.
Crops had been brought in, livestock killed for the winter and
workers would seek new employment. Workers would get a week off
between contracts. This was the time of the hiring fair, a great
Huge crowds gathered at these fairs, not just
farm workers seeking employment and not just men. People sought
work in the police and army and on the coast, hotels sought
Rural workers sold their time to farmers for a
fixed sum. If the worker left that employment before end of term
then they received nothing. The farmer, too, had obligations.
Once a farmer agreed to hire a worker and that worker agreed to
work for a farmer, a fastening penny was given to the worker. It
formed a legally binding contract and the farmer could not sack
the worker. Disputes were handled by magistrates.
Horeslands of East Yorkshire
Stephen described the wider social impact hiring fairs
throughout many parts of northern England. It was a time to
spend hard earned money and a time of revelry. Some, mainly the
clergy, took a dim view of these events but it was not the
general view. For many country towns these events were the most
important time for income for their businesses.
enlightening talk, clearly explained the importance of hiring
fairs in our history and how, for the most part, they are now